I recently read an interesting piece in The Independent by Christina Patterson about ghost bikes. For those of you who have not heard of the phenomenon of ghost bikes, they are memorials consisting of a bicycle painted entirely white, installed alongside roads where someone has been killed whilst cycling. These memorials might be in memory of someone you’ve never even heard of or met (much like other types of memorial).
Whilst Christina Patterson can see that whilst it is sad when anyone dies, she acknowledges that cyclists know the risks inherent to cycling. The streets, those mysterious corridors formed from natural materials like rock and tar are very much like the open seas; beyond our control. Likewise, those strange metal beasts which race around the streets are still poorly understood by us, like wild bears and wolves they cannot be fully controlled; we simply have to accept the risks which come with living amongst them.
Naturally, accidents will happen in this situation, but that is no reason to litter the streets with eyesores for Christina Patterson to suffer every time she goes to the supermarket. Of course it is sad for the families of those killed by this situation, but it is difficult to see what an ugly memorial is trying to achieve. This is just the way things are, and there is nothing that the individual or the state can do to remedy this.
If the streets were instead some kind of artificial structure, with humanity being able to alter their design, perhaps some of the risks cyclists face could be reduced. Similarly, if the strange metal beasts which roam our towns and cities could be controlled by humans, perhaps humans with special training and extra accountability, overseen by the state, we might expect the dangers cyclists face to be reduced greatly. If cyclists weren’t being killed by uncontrollable natural forces, perhaps the anger of those installing the ghost bikes would make sense. However, if this was the case, Christina Patterson’s Independent article would instead make her look like some kind of callous moron.